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Two different thoughts based in amusement came to mind as I read the negative reaction to Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes last night:


  1. Let's just say, for the simple sake of argument, that Trump is somehow correct when he called her, "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood." I've been fond of saying that Derek Jeter is the most overrated baseball players in my lifetime. But, guess what. Derek Jeter, despite being overrated -- especially by Yankees fans who seem to think he was the greatest shortstop ever to grace the position -- is still an incredibly great, no doubt, future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Even if Trump is right, Streep is still the acting equivalent of a Derek Jeter. End of discussion.

  2. It's really cute to see all the conservative social media trolls work up a frothy dander and complain about celebrities like Streep using public platforms to state their views. Often, the admonishment includes some form of "no one cares what you think." I find this particularly humorous because clearly the speaker cares enough to get angry and to tell the entertainer to "shut up and do your job." It seems to me that the type of people who engage in such rhetoric repeat it every single time the likes of Streep, Springsteen, [insert favorite liberal entertainer/artist name here], etc. state their opinion. If one doesn't really care, the most emphatic response should be an eye roll, followed with a low utterance of "Whatever. Moving on."

Speaking of which... Whatever. I'm now moving on.

Weekly Weigh-In, 2017 Reset

I think I may have been overly optimistic and attempting to start a weight-loss regimen during the holidays. The intentions were sincere and earnest, but a couple days before Christmas the whole thing went right out the window. Thus, the need for me to hit the reset switch after visiting the gym today, for the first time in a week, and forcing myself to engage in healthy eating habits for the first time in nearly two weeks. The damage could have been worse as I have gained more than this in a shorter period of time. There is also a silver lining: typically when I add extra pounds quickly, I'm able to take them off nearly as quickly.

So, the new baseline and goal are:

Starting weight: 213.4 lb
Goal: 190.0 lb

New Year's Scribblings

The consensus view is that 2016 sucked. From the narrow perspective of my life, that wasn't true. Other than the outcome of the Presidential election and the large amounts of sleep I lost (and continue to lose) in the aftermath, it was actually a fairly decent year. As the lack of sleep indicates, I am actually far more worried about 2017. I'd like to believe that are forces within the Republican Party that have enough power to moderate the worst excesses of the coming Trump administration, but the amount of post-election spinelessness shown by much of the establishment doesn't bode well for those hopes...

I wish I better understood why it is I find it so hard to maintain any kind of consistency in posting regularly to LJ. The fact is that I do enjoy this kind of writing, but forcing myself to do so often feels like some kind of Herculean task. I've long suspected that this is the product of what I like to call "The Facebook Effect": that in addition to encouraging short, simplistic, nuance-free writing, it actually causes you to think in such a manner. I'm going to have to find a way to reconcile my lack of desire to leave the site -- borne from the fact that most of my friends and family maintain a presence there, thus making it my primary social networking tool -- with my desire to spend more time writing in this manner...

I haven't forgotten my statement to provide some explanatory detail for this year's LEGO Christmas diorama. That will be the subject of a future post...

With just 15 hours left in the year, I made it to 40 books read for 2016, and like the LEGO post, there is a concluding 2016 Stuff Read post in the works. As a reward for achieving an unofficial goal for the year, I started Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's The Big Book of Science Fiction. While I am looking forward to reading it cover-to-cover, it's 1,200 oversized pages will make it exceedingly difficult for me to manage 40 books two years in a row. If I do manage that feat, it will almost certainly result from setting aside more time to read than I did last year...

Today is the last day of an extended break from work. I used a few days with of PTO to supplement the additional days off that Major Defense Contractor gave everyone around the holidays, thus providing me with an end of year, nearly two-week vacation. As is often the case with such things, the days passed by far too quickly. I suspect that I will have severe motivational issues when I return to work tomorrow...

Finally, to everyone reading this that I haven't already expressed the sentiment to, Happy New Year. I hope that I'm merely being pessimistic and will be proven wrong, but just in case, I wish you the strength, perseverance, and wisdom to navigate what will almost assuredly be the first of a few dark years in American history.

Mini-Rant for the Day

"Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

-- Lewis Rothschild, The American President (1995)

I could write so much more, and I know many others have, but to me this is the primary reason why we're currently in the fucked up state of affairs this country is seeing. The Democratic Party, collectively, turned their back on the working poor in rural areas of this country a couple decades ago, and over that time, the Republican Party did a wonderful job of fanning the flames of fire and resentment, but otherwise did nothing but break their promises. It left Trump with a massive opening: he was perceived as a political outsider talking to them, and they turned out in droves. They believed, despite a record that showed that he has never cared about anyone other than himself, simply because he wasn't the establishment and he was talking to them. They'll keep believing every word he says, for quite a while too, because they've become emotionally invested in the idea he'll bring back the manufacturing, retail, and energy production jobs of old -- even though those jobs are gone forever, the victims of long-term structural changes resulting from the Internet, deregulation, trickle-down economics, and a move away from carbon-based fuels.
I don't know how long it will take Trump voters to admit that they've been conned. I can only hope that the damage Trump and his kleptocracy only sets us back years instead of decades.

One More Lego Christmas Display to Make

I've decided that I'm not done with the Lego Christmas displays just yet. I am going to recreate a scene from one of my favorite Christmas songs, but I needed to order a couple individual Lego pieces in order to properly render it. I feel the need to state that it is not Weird Al's "The Night Santa Went Crazy." Even if I was interested in doing that, I'm fairly certain that TeenLitGirl would leave me before letting me put that on display in our home.

In the meantime, you can see what I've already assembled over Facebook. I'll provide a full explanation of what's going on in that set sometime in the next few days.

Weekly Weigh-In, Week #3

While I'm satisfied with this week's results, I am not actually happy. Given I've spent most of the last six months somewhere in the 205-215 range, I don't think I will feel happy or excited about any results until I'm at least closer to 200 than 205. Nonetheless, this does partially compensate for my crappy start over the first two weeks.

Loss/gain for the week: -2.0
Cumulative loss: -2.0
Pounds from goal: 17.2

Tags:

Weekly Weigh-In, Week #2

I didn't make it to the gym last Thursday, in part due to Thanksgiving, so the first week went by without comment. Unfortunately, there was no good news to report after today's weigh-in. As I said two weeks ago, my problem for the last four-five months has been I've been doing a great job of maintaining when what I really want to do is remove some excess weight. This past two week period is a perfect demonstation of that. Well, holding my own feet to the fire is what this kind of posting is meant to do, and I know exactly what I did wrong -- I skipped a few days at the gym and I didn't stick to just one "bad" day per week. All I can do now is forget the last two weeks and don't make the same mistakes again.

Two-week cumulative loss/gain: 0.0
Pounds from goal: 19.2

Tags:

I'll Take Potpourri for 200, Alex

I'm sure that what I should do is split each of the following into its own separate post, but's that not the way I feel like operating...

  • Last week, Shout Factory announced the titles that will be included in MST3K: Volume XXXVIII. With this announcement, there will only be 15 episodes from the show's original run that have not been officially released on DVD. Given the minefield of rights issues that have plagued home video releases, which resulted in the Volume 10.2 reissue and the Amazing Colossal Man VHS recall, I am both thrilled and stunned that this many original episodes received such a treatment. I don't know whether it is really the case or not, but it wouldn't surprise me to discover that assembling a complete collection of the DVD releases like mine, which I have dutifully assembled by buying every release no later than a day or two after its releases, makes for one of the most expensive TV shows one could attempt to own. Off the top of my head, only the original run of Doctor Who competes -- though it almost certainly is worse.

  • The more I think about Batman's cell phone contact list in a recent episode of Teen Titans Go, the funnier I think it is. The fact that he has both Martha K. and Martha W. listed is wonderfully absurd on multiple levels. First, I'm imagining Bruce Wayne, at the end of a long evening of fighting crime, calling his mom's number and reporting in on his day. He keeps telling her how much he misses her and dad, and he hopes he's doing them proud. He tells her the things that he can't even tell Alfred, Nightwing, or whomever is his Robin of the moment. But then, I imagine that the number has been assigned to someone else who listens to these disturbing rants everyday, saying nothing, and not knowing what he/she should do about it -- especially since Wayne is smart and rich enough to make sure his cell number is unlisted and cannot be traced. Better still, the whole sordid scene turns into a bizarre mash-up with the new Will Smith movie, Collateral Beauty, and the frequent phone calls bring her back to life and on the doorstep of Wayne Manor. This is in turn causes him to freak out, thinking that some residue of older Scarecrow toxin in his system hasn't been properly dealt with, thus finally causing the psychotic break he's always been on the verge of.

  • Back in March, I decided that as part of concerted effort to properly clean-up my iTunes music library (removing duplicate tracks, correcting spellings, deleting songs I never liked but appeared on an '80s compilation that I imported in its entirety, etc.) I would create a play list of all the songs in my library that I actually enjoy. Well, this has entailed listening to everything, and in a non-trivial number of cases, I have albums in my library I've barely listened to -- these are mostly items that TeenLitGirl already owned when we met. I made the decision to listen to each of these albums three or four times in order to find new-to-me music to add to the list. I'm doing this alphabetically by artist, and at the moment I'm up to James. It's a lot further along than it might seem -- the amount of music in the Bs was ridiculous. Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Bowling for Soup... there was a lot there. J isn't shaping up to be much better, with Jonathan Coulton, John Mellencamp, Josh Ritter, Jason Mraz, and John Lennon. I hope to have completed this project by the end of this coming March.

Three-Part Info Dump

A few different things I've left as comments on other people's Facebook posts. Each of them I decided I wanted to preserve on an easier to search platform.

Part I: The Art of Debating While Saying Nothing

Nothing irritates me more than somebody trotting out the hoary, mindless "taxation is theft" argument. It's a juvenile, loaded construct that completely ignores the fact that there are a litany of services that must be provided by the government, either because various industries have proven over the years that they cannot be trusted to do these things, the profit margin is too small for capitalist enterprises to be bothered, or it's simply in the public's best interest and well-being to keep it out of the hands of any kind of business.

Society is, at a fundamental level, a socialistic construct... Why, the two words even derive from the same root word! Thousands of years ago, our ancestors figured out that if we banded together and pooled some of our labors into the public good, then we all would do better than if we continued a Darwinian Battle Royale out in the wilderness. If we just went full-blown, laissez faire libertarian, we'd end up back in a feudal society (or worse) faster than you can say "primae noctis."

Part II: My Problem With the Electoral College

Each state receives a number of electoral votes that equals the combined number of its Senator and Representatives in Congress. However, the formula that originally that determined how many Representatives each state received differs from we we do today. This formula required the increase of representatives in a manner that correlated with the increase of the general US population. According to Article I, section 2, clause 3: "The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000, but each State shall have at least one representative." Thus, the states were represented in the EC in a roughly proportional manner.

However, once the House hit 435 Representatives, it was decided to freeze the number. While doing so, it was decided that the minimum of Representatives for each state would logically be 1. The problem with this is that when any state's population falls below the threshold for 1/435 of the US population, its Representative actually represents fewer people than any of the Representatives from any state large enough for 2 or 3 Representatives. this problem becomes even more exacerbated when dealing with states such as Texas or California.

This proportionality problem is reflected in the Electoral College today. Yes, it was always there to a degree, by design, but the bias towards rural states over the more urbanized ones in the college has gotten worse over time.

That is the problem I have with the current make up of the Electoral College. If you are going to go by the founders' original intent (an admittedly dicey proposition, especially in light of Time's article on the origins of the EC) then the formula for electors for each state should equal two for each Senator plus a formula that more equitably assigns additional electors based on percentage of US population, as splitting 435 just isn't sufficient when spread out over 50 states and a population of over 300 million. The 2010 census reported 308.7 million people in the US. Clearly, 30,000 is too small by today's standards, as that would require over 100,000 electors. But solely for Electoral College purposes, I think I can get behind a number somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000. That should be sufficient to deal with the rounding problem.

Part III: The Trump-Pence Dilemma

I cannot state just how much I loathe the thought of it; we might in fact be better off with a President Pence. Yes, I am suggesting that if the Republicans can use any reason to invoke the 25th Amendment to impeach Trump as soon as possible, then they should do so. Whether it is literally or behind the scenes, I think that Pence will in fact be doing most of the string-pulling anyway. Based on some of the examples neocon David Frum has presented, Trump may very well be a national security risk -- and this should give the Republicans they leverage they need to impeach. This more than anything else is the reason why I think we are better off with Pence actually in the Oval Office.

Don't get me wrong, all the domestic implications will suck balls. But, at least there will be an adult in the chair.

Thanksgiving 2016

I don't typically make posts, of any length, of what I'm thankful for when this particular holiday arrives. I wouldn't say it's a daily occurrence, but I am frequently mindful of how fortunate I am in life, which in a limited fashion makes this holiday seem a little superfluous. I have a job that provides for my family and allows me to lead a lifestyle I am incredibly happy with. I married an amazing woman who, as I've stated on Facebook on a few different occasions, makes this agnostic almost believe that the two of us were put on Earth for each other. I also feel blessed to have a wonderful son who brings so much to my life that it feels silly to attempt to list it all. In short, In the ways that truly have meaning, I have just about everything I could ask for in life.

And, I will never retake any of it for granted.

This is because my life wasn't also this good. In fact, at this exact time 10 years ago I was, without doubt, at the nadir of my life. My first marriage was in shambles, and I was spectacularly burning out in my professional life. The stress, which had been inducing regular, intense headaches for some time, ultimately weakened my immune system so much that I ended up in the hospital with viral meningitis. I was absolutely miserable.

At that time, if you had told me where I would be 10 years later I just would've looked at you, shocked, jaw agape, with a gobsmacked expression. The life I have now would have seemed like some sort of fantastical invention created for the express purpose of calming and soothing me. Yet, it still wouldn't have made me feel better. From the perspective of that time, I would have found two elements absolutely distasteful: the end of my marriage, which I was still fervently fighting to save and repair, and a custody arrangement where I didn't get to see Manchild on a daily basis.

Well, I'm not satisfied that I don't get to see him everyday, but I've made my peace with it and adapted. It's a good thing too, because that is what allowed me to find TeenLitGirl and forge the life we have together. In every way imaginable, my life is markedly better than the one I was living at the end of November 2006. Hell, I'm even taking better care of myself through more regular exercise and heathier eating.

The point is that I'm thankful not just for what I have, but also for what I've gained. Yes, where I am today is due to my own efforts and hard work. However, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that luck played a role too, as well as the fact that I am playing this game on the easiest possible setting. I will never take what I have for granted, and I will continue to be thankful, even if I don't publicly express it every Thanksgiving.